I raised the treatment of the Windrush Generation again with the Leader of the House. The Home Office should know who is in detention and must know why they are there. I asked when the Government will produce these figures and why we are now waiving the citizenship fee for anyone in the Windrush generation who wishes to apply for citizenship when they are British citizens and do not need to apply?
You can read my speech in full below:
I thank the Leader of the House for the forthcoming business and support her in sending our congratulations to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the safe delivery of their son on St George’s day. And yes, women are very important—we hold up half the sky.
I asked the Leader of the House about allocating time for nurses’ bursaries. Will she allocate time for a debate on that? I thank for her finally allocating time for a debate on the Criminal Legal Aid (Remuneration) (Amendment) Regulations 2018—a matter that was raised as a point of order by my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds East (Richard Burgon). I am sure that the Leader of the House will have heard your words, Mr Speaker, when my hon. Friend did that. You said that it was “a regrettable state of affairs” and “in terms of the smooth running of the House” does not help to build an “atmosphere of trust”.
The changes to the legal aid fees have triggered the barristers’ boycott of new legal aid work. Lawyers are being asked to peruse documents and are not being paid for it. That is part of the evidence bundle. Bizarrely, the Lord Chancellor on Tuesday at Justice questions said that the Government are waiting for information from the Labour party. I am not sure whether he meant that they are waiting for a Labour Government, so that we could then revoke the statutory instrument.
I want to ask the Leader of the House about another small House issue: is it possible to have email alerts for statutory instruments that are published on Fridays? Our hard-working staff have to trawl through all the statutory instruments to see the new ones. They get an email alert for statements, so could we have that for SIs?
The Prime Minister said on the steps of No. 10: “We will do everything we can to give you more control over your lives”, but that does not seem to apply to the Windrush generation. Amelia Gentleman, a journalist for The Guardian, publicised in November 2017 the case of Paulette Wilson, who used to cook for us in the House of Commons. She had been here for more than 50 years and was taken to Yarl’s Wood and was about to be deported. Although it was grand having the Home Secretary making her statement in the House, it raised more questions than answers. The Home Office should know who is in detention and must know why they are there.
When will the Government produce these figures? Why are they now waiving the citizenship fee for anyone in the Windrush generation who wishes to apply for citizenship when they are British citizens and do not need to apply, as the Prime Minister repeated over and over again yesterday? Why are the Government saying that they will waive the requirement for them to carry out a test on knowledge of language and life in the UK, when most of the Windrush generation have lived here for years—some for over 50 years—and they speak English? The Government do know how many people are affected, because the Home Office has written to tell them that they have to leave.
May we have a further statement updating the House on all the figures, and on whether the Cabinet Secretary should conduct an inquiry into the Department? What sort of Government throw a net using unassessed policy, rhetoric and ads to catch people who are here legally along with those who are here illegally? What sort of Government throw a net that catches the innocent with the guilty?
But there is more chaos in the Government. In the autumn Budget, the Chancellor promised that councils would be compensated for losses incurred as a result of changes to the “staircase tax”. Days later, a letter was written to council finance officers stating that the Government would not be compensating local authorities for any loss of income caused by the reversal of the tax. On Monday, legislation overturned the tax. May we have a statement on why the Government have U-turned, and are not honouring the expenditure that was committed by the Chancellor?
More chaos: the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union has finally visited the Irish border, but he broke parliamentary protocol by failing to tell the hon. Member for Newry and Armagh (Mickey Brady). He said that it was “an administrative oversight for which we are happy to apologise.” Despite his being a prominent member of the Leave campaign, that was his first visit.
More chaos: EU negotiators have said that backstop plans to prevent a hard border in Ireland after Brexit will not work. The hon. Member for North East Somerset (Mr Rees-Mogg) has described the Prime Minister’s plan for a “customs partnership” as “completely cretinous”, “impractical, bureaucratic”, and “a betrayal of common sense”.